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Nuggets to move the shipping sector forward

A Ship
So far in the history of Nigeria’s apex maritime regulatory body – formerly known as the National Maritime Authority (NMA) but now known as the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) consequent upon the fusion of NMA and JOMALIC – only two people have been appointed from within the organisation as Director General and Chief Executive Officer.

The first was Mr. John Patrick Egesi. Unfortunately, Egesi did not last in that position beyond three months before he was booted out in 1999 as a result of intrigues and back biting.

The second person that has so far been appointed from inside the agency as DG/CEO is Dr. Shamsideen Dosunmu. In between Egesi and Dosunmu, Enugu State had a field day producing the next three successive DG/CEOs made up of George Eneh, Ferdinand Agu and Festus Ugwu.

Not a few stakeholders in the maritime industry were at a loss as to the compelling reasons behind appointing an Enugu man at all cost.

The political equation which produced the trio as heads of Nigeria’s maritime administration at different times between 1999 and July 2006 is reminiscent of the much dreaded almighty formula in secondary school maths which many a student are unable to grasp.

George Eneh who succeeded John Patrick Egesi stayed a little over a year before he was sent packing.

Then came in Agu, an Architect.
Agu seemed to have some kind of staying power.

No sooner had he settled down in 2001 than the intrigues that threw his predecessors out of office reared their ugly heads.

The man was able to weather the storm though not just for the first year but for the first term of his appointment.

A record-breaking four years as far as the agency is concerned.

Agu even got reappointed for a second term. That was during the tenure of Abiye Sekibo as Transport Minister.

But alas! Hardly had the glasses stopped clinking that the marauders caught up with him. He was fired in December 2005 in what could be described as a culmination of a game of wits that thrived in speculations and counter – speculations for about two weeks.

Agu’s kinsman – Festus Ugwu; then an ebeano Commissioner in Enugu was appointed in his stead.

The die was cast again. The detractors probably thought one of their own should have been appointed since they “fought” for Agu’s ouster.
Since it didn’t work out that way, then aluta continue.

War upon war. War of words.

Guerilla warfare on the pages of newspapers.

How I pity the Ministers that were placed under such intense media pressure.

The opposition was unrelenting.

It didn’t matter; just push everything through the papers – truths, half-truths, falsehoods, official secrets and all.

And then, one golden opportunity came.

Board Chairman – Funsho Williams was murdered in a gruesome manner in his Ikoyi home.

Oh what an opportunity! The enemy’s tanks were rolled out.

“Bombard the media houses with tales of how Ugwu had an argument with Funsho Williams 24 hours before Williams’ murder over some query issued Ugwu by Williams over a missing N500 million naira”, must have been the instruction to ensure Ugwu’s ouster.

It worked. The media as well and the police bit the bait.

Ugwu was arrested. The Ministry of Transport could no longer stand the heat or at least wait for outcome of the investigation.

Ugwu’s sack letter was delivered to him in Alagbon police cell on 31st July 2007, barely eight months after his appointment.

Poor soul. He had left all in Enugu including a commissionership position to answer the national call.

Now he was totally a jobless man for the first time in his working life.

Lagos na wah o.

Ugwu has since been released. He has neither been convicted of Funsho’s murder nor of any financial misdemeanor.

From first hand information that I have been able to gather by myself and based upon what I have seen between 1999 and 2007 (Obasanjo’s tenure), most of these helmsmen were booted out of office essentially due to some forces that are hell bent on destabilizing the regulatory agency and by extension stunting the growth of the maritime sector.

Over the eight years period under review, six DG’s held the forth at the Maritime House. Ferdinand Agu alone stayed for four years. That means five Directors General shared only four years between them.
This gives an average of nine and a half months per Chief Executive.

The truth must be told to the Authorities concerned that the nation’s shipping sector is the worse for it.

Granted that the Federal Government had every reason to fire the team preceeding the current one at NIMASA especially in the face of unending war of attrition and acrimony as well as allegations and counter allegations between the Board and the then Management; including intra-management squabbles. There were reports of the then DG and the then Executive Director (Operations) Oliver Ogbuagu almost going physical with each other.

At the Board room of NIMASA on Thursday 9th August 2007 when the Minister of State for Water Transportation, Prince John Emeka visited NIMASA, some stakeholders including Captain Emmanuel Iheanacho – Vice President of the Indigenous Ship Owners Association of Nigeria, Chief Isaac Jolapamo – President of the Association and Comrade Onikolaese Irabor – President General of the Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria all echoed the hearts of stakeholders when they spoke with one voice over leadership issue at NIMASA.

In Iheanacho’s words to the Minister, “you have a good team here at NIMASA and these guys sure know what to do and they are quite honest about it, I think we should allow some stability in NIMASA”.

Irabor on his part said, “Honourable Minister sir, stability is good for the shipping sector and for the workers that I represent. Luckily we have a professional team in place, please don’t listen to detractors who are out to create confusion. We will not support any change in leadership at this time”.

Chief Jolapamo also aligned his views in this regard.

Fortunately the NIMASA Act supports the appointment of persons with “… relevant experience and capacity applicable to maritime administration …” into the Board of the Agency. Thus the NIMASA Executive management team is a well thought – out composition with a seasoned maritime administrator and a policy strategist with a Ph.D in Public Administration, Dr. Dosunmu as Director General, two of the Executive Directors – Ishyaku Shekarau and Henry Abebe are also well grounded in maritime affairs with cognate experiences having served in various capacities at Inlets and NPA respectively.

The Executive Director Finance and Administration – Dr. Danjuma Dabo is a chartered accountant fit for that position.

In my opinion, all the Ministry needs do at the appropriate time is appoint the required number of non – Executive Directors into the NIMASA board.

Aside its negative impact on the shipping sector, any change in NIMASA leadership at this point will affect Nigeria’s chances of regaining its seat on the council of the International Maritime Organisation, IMO.

The various programmes initiated by the current management team including the establishment of national carriers, fleet renewal programme, wreck removal in our waters, completion of the maritime resource centre and the regional maritime rescue coordination centre should be allowed to mature.

The modus operandi of the destabilizing agents at NIMASA is to write volumes upon volumes of petitions made up essentially of falsehoods and half-truths to the Honourable Minister and then circulate same to the media essentially to mount undue pressure on the Minister and on the Presidency.

I have written this piece at this point in time as a stakeholder who is quite concerned about the negative consequences of the actions of these undesirable elements.

The Honourable Minister as well as the Honourable Minister of State should please be on the look out.

The interest of these people is self-serving and not by any means altruistic.

My advice is for the Ministers to settle down, take their time, assess the individual parastatal heads strictly on the merit of their performance and reach their own decisions.

They should not, by any means, rely on frivolous petitions and propaganda aimed at painting those who are at the helm of affairs at the various parastatals under the Transport Ministry in bad light.



                                                                                                                                                                                       Updated 16/8/07 10.00am

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